The paramis (Skt., paramitas) are ten qualities of the heart and mind that a practitioner develops on the path of awakening. Working with the paramis of generosity, virtue, renunciation, wisdom, energy, patience, truthfulness, determination, lovingkindness, and equanimity, says Insight Meditation teacher Joseph Goldstein, is like building muscles at the gym—it’s hard work, but it pays off. The results in this case, however, are not bulging biceps and killer glutes but the benefits of increased happiness, kindness, clarity, and ease in the present moment.

Illustration by Pablo Amargo

This series will offer you some reminders and words of encouragement about developing the paramis. If you need a visual reminder, a printable/downloadable version is available here.

First up is GENEROSITY, which is exactly what it sounds like: sharing what you have with others, whether physical possessions or your time and attention. Even children know that “sharing is caring,” but developing the habit of maintaining a generous attitude doesn’t always come easily in a culture where our worth is defined by what we have. Still, every generous act makes it more likely that you will be generous again. Just keep at it. Here are some ideas to hold in mind:

  • “Being generous creates ‘instant karma’—we can immediately see and feel the results of being generous.” —Gil Fronsdal
  • “There is happiness in planning the generous act, happiness in the actual giving, and happiness in reflecting later on your generosity.” —Joseph Goldstein
  • Tip: if you feel an urge to be generous, act on it. Then notice what happens in your mind and heart.
  • Generosity is practiced on a scale—from beggarly giving to royal giving. Any giving is better than giving nothing at all.
Illustration by Pablo Amargo
  • “When you are practicing generosity, you should feel a little pinch when you give something away. That pinch is your stinginess protesting.” —Gelek Rimpoche
  • Try a little change of vocabulary. Instead of telling yourself you have to do something or give something, try thinking that you get to do something or give something.
  • Be open to being a receiver as well as a giver.
  • Practicing generosity helps us step back from our own self-interest and see how everything is interconnected.
  • “These five are a person of integrity’s gifts. Which five? A person of integrity gives a gift with a sense of conviction. A person of integrity gives a gift attentively. A person of integrity gives a gift in season. A person of integrity gives a gift with an empathetic heart. A person of integrity gives a gift without adversely affecting himself or others.”
    Anguttara Nikaya 5.148 (trans. Thanissaro Bhikkhu)
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